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October 2009

UN makes a drama out of Gaza crisis

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UN makes a drama out of Gaza crisis

Israel’s attack on an aid warehouse that was a lifeline for Palestinians has been powerfully reconstructed for the stage. But such controversial material is leaving audiences divided.

Donald Macintyre reports
The Independent
Sunday, 25 October 2009

Her face larger than life on the big screen at the back of the stage, Jodie Clarke explains just what was happening at her workplace on 15 January 2009, and how the military she was constantly in touch with were insisting it was not. “My dear, I am standing in my building,” she says she told the person at the other end of the phone. “It is collapsing around me. There is a huge fire. You are hitting the UN compound.”

The Australian warehouse manager goes on calmly to describe how she crawled under the wheels of a fuel truck to push away a burning a “softball-sized” chunk of white phosphorus that would have caused a devastatingly lethal explosion if it had ignited the vehicle.

Matter of fact as it is, Ms Clarke’s account is powerfully dramatic. Appropriately so, since it is now the centrepiece of what by any standards is one of the most unusual dramas to be staged in English in 2009. All the more so since the author, sole actor and director, is Chris Gunness, the chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency. And especially so given the unwieldily titled but highly watchable Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse is intended for Israeli audiences, whose military was responsible for the artillery bombardment of UNRWA headquarters in central Gaza City during the last week of the invasion.

Provocative agitprop dramaturgy on the fringe-theatre circuit may seem rather beyond the remit of a UN press officer, however senior. But Mr Gunness decided last spring that this was the best medium with which to engage the Israeli public, among whom, as the body responsible for the welfare of almost a million of Gaza’s refugees, his employer UNRWA is, to put it mildly, far from universally popular, on the impact of Operation Cast Lead.

Mr Gunness, a Briton and one-time BBC correspondent turned diplomat, became internationally well-known during last winter’s war as he took to the airwaves and regularly protested about UN installations in Gaza, including the warehouse, coming under fire from the Israeli Defence Forces.

It was on the strength of one such appearance on a satellite channel that Tami Berger from Bezalel, Israel’s most venerable art school, invited him to take part in a one-day event on “storage-space” ranging from the human womb to a TV network’s archive. Mr Gunness thought of the UNRWA warehouse and with the backing of his bosses and the help of his Israeli assistant, Yael Azgad, sat down and wrote Epitaph.

On stage throughout the 40-minute performance, Mr Gunness plays – however improbably – the eponymous warehouse, announcing early on that he is “the victim of an excruciatingly painful fire that burned me down”. Most of the goods coming into Gaza, including food, medicine, basic health items and other humanitarian supplies “pass through me”, the warehouse explains, adding, “I am a lifeline to a society behind bars”.

Unsurprisingly, the play has generated controversy, especially since Jewish international judge Richard Goldstone’s UN-commissioned report on the Gaza operation, which excoriated the attack on the compound and triggered outrage through much of Israel; so much so that a planned performance at Tel Aviv’s Hasimta theatre last week, which was to have been followed by a panel discussion with a Israeli government representative, was cancelled. There is no sign that the theatre’s creative staff were responsible for the axing. The theatre director, Avi Gibson Bar El, referred enquiries this week to the Tel Aviv muncipality, which in turn refused two requests for comment.

Epitaph was similarly pulled – this time at the last minute – from Acre’s al Laz theatre, back in August. Mony Yousef, who runs the city’s arts festival who saw then recommended the play to the theatre, broke the news to Mr Gunness after he had arrived in the northern Israeli city to set up. Asked about the sudden U-turn, Mr Yousef suggested, somewhat bizzarely, that the problem was, in fact, that the play had not been provocative enough. “It was not theatre, it was not very radical,” he insisted. “There was no pressure.”

So far, therefore, Mr Gunness has been able to stage his play only twice for the Israeli audiences for whom it is intended. In Tel Aviv, 20 people (out of an audience of more than 100) walked out early on. One man rose to his feet halfway through the performance to denounce what he saw as the drama’s frontal onslaught on Israel’s military.

Mr Gunness defused the interruption by promising to discuss his concerns. At the end, he walked down to the man’s seat and pointed out that the show was not saying the bombardment was deliberate, or that it was a war crime. The man was apparently placated but Mr Gunness conceived the idea that performances should from then on feature a chair for audience members to come up on stage and engage in debate if they wanted.

The other performance was for a class at Sapir College in Sderot, the western Negev town which has borne the brunt of Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. Although the students, including former soldiers, were on an elective course studying Palestinian refugees – and therefore more familiar with UNRWA’s work than the average Israeli – they were initially sceptical. “There was a lot of ‘Yes, but’,” said lecturer Maya Rosenfeld. “But in the end I think the whole idea of watching an UNRWA official doing this impressed them.”

For Mr Gunness, the show is partly about repairing the image of the UN, once famously dismissed as “Oom Schmoom” by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Israelis who dislike the UN may sometimes scrawl “Unwanted Nobodies” on its cars. Mr Gunness says the UN is “expected to stay put when there is danger and conflict and it does”. He believes that audiences who engage with Epitaph find that “our values are ones that a lot of Israelis identify with, including giving help to those who need it most”.

But was the highly sensitive subject of the Gaza War the best subject to begin this process of engagement and image building? “If I contact Israelis-journalists and others about other things we do, development and so on, they understandably glaze over; but if I say look, there’s a play with a pint-sized Australian woman from UNRWA who risked her life to stop an even worse conflagration in the middle of the war, they sit up and listen.”

Pointing out that Israel’s Foreign Ministry had encouraged UNRWA to engage more with the Israeli public, he adds: “Like Daniel in the biblical den, I’m ready to take this to the most leonine audiences anywhere in Israel.”

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Clashes at al Aqsa

Northwest’s New Motto: “We’ll Get You Within 150 Miles of There”

nw
Launches New Sleeper ServiceTM

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Trying to make the best of what could be a public relations disaster, Northwest Airlines today unveiled a new corporate slogan, “We’ll Get You Within 150 Miles of There.”

According to Carol Foyler, a Northwest spokesperson, the new slogan “reflects our dedication to getting our passengers as close as possible to their intended destination.”

Northwest timed the announcement of their new slogan to coincide with the launch of their new Sleeper ServiceTM.

The new sleeper service provides fully reclining seats, pillows and blankets for all travelers seated in the cockpit area.

According to Ms. Foyler, “Our new Sleeper Service TM should reassure all Northwest travelers that our pilots are the best-rested in the industry.”

In a related story, the two Northwest pilots who overshot Minneapolis said they were just trying to do publicity for the movie “Amelia.” More here.

Gaza ad censored by DIRECTV

View the longer version of a TV ad about Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. A shorter version of this commercial was censored by DIRECTV. Take action to protest DIRECTV’s censorship here:
http://endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1817

Question on 08/09 Gaza War to Tony Blair at UB

Tony Blair was the speaker in the second lecture of University at Buffalo’s 23rd Distinguished Speaker Series on October 7th. Senior Political Science major, Nicolas Kabat, asks him about the Gaza War during the lecture’s question and answer session:

“UN investigation found that Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the recent Gaza conflict. Yet the US and Israel insist that the report was biased, and proceeding with the Committees recommendations would be harmful to the peace process. Why is international law not applied in this case, when the evidence exists? And please explain, as Quartet Envoy, why the application of international law would be harmful to the overall peace process, and furthermore, why the siege on Gaza is not similarly deemed harmful to the peace process. Thank you.”

Do look up this comment about Blair

VANUNU : FREEDOM AND ONLY FREEDOM I NEED NOW

vanunu

Hi,From june 2009,
This is Vanunu . NO any news here.
The 6 th’ year restrictions,not to leave the country.continue.
AFTER 18 YEARS PRISON.
The isreal stupid spies will not get any thing from here.
FROM NOW ON,FOR $1,000,YOU CAN MEET ME HERE,VANUNU.
FREEDOM AND ONLY FREEDOM I NEED NOW.
VMJC.


FREEDOM AND ONLY FREEDOM I NEED NOW.
VANUNU MORDECHAI (John Crossman).
KIDNAPPED IN ROME SEP’ 30 TH’-1986.
18 YEARS IN ISRAEL PRISON.OUT IN APR’-21-2004.
Waiting In East Jerusalem. To Be Free,To Leave .
YouTube – vanunuvmjc
http:/www.vanunu.com
Email. vanunuvmjc@gmail.com
Mobile ( 9 7 2 ) 0 5 2 3 7 4 4 5 6 9.

Here is a comment I received and which most people might miss :

eileen fleming Says:

October 22, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Reply edit

I saw Vanunu last on June 14, 2009 and he told me:

“They renewed the restrictions to not speak to foreigners until November. I meet foreigners every day. I am talking with people every day.

“The Central Commander of the General Army testified in court that it is OK if I speak in public as long as I do not talk about nuclear weapons.”

On July 6, 2009, Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish continued to deny Vanunu the right to leave the state, claiming his “case is still generating great interest, like any other security-related case. The media’s attention he gets is proof of that.”

I phoned Vanunu that day to express my disappointment and distress, and he replied:

“You have freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Do what you want. But I am not publishing anything. Everything is already on the Internet.”

See and hear Vanunu speak for himself in 2005, 2006 and 2008 video freely streaming @ VANUNU ARCHIVES:

http://www.wearewideawake.org/

Goldstone : my mission- and motivation

I sincerely believed that because of my own record and the terms of the mission’s mandate we would receive the cooperation of the Israeli government.
Its refusal to cooperate was a grave error. My plea for cooperation was repeated before and during the investigation and it sits, plain as day, in the appendices of the Gaza report for those who actually bother to read it.

Our mission obviously could only consider and report on what it saw, heard and read. If the government of Israel failed to bring facts and analyses to our attention, we cannot fairly be blamed for the consequences.

Those who feel that our report failed to give adequate attention to specific incidents or issues should be asking the Israeli government why it failed to argue its cause.

OF COURSE the children of Sderot and the children of Gaza have the same rights to protection under international law and that is why, notwithstanding the decision of the government of Israel, we took whatever steps were open to us to obtain information from victims and experts in southern Israel about the effects on their lives of sustained rocket and mortar attacks over a period of years.

It was on the strength of those investigations that we held those attacks to constitute serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

Israel and its courts have always recognized that they are bound by norms of international law that it has formally ratified or that have become binding as customary international law upon all nations.
The fact that the United Nations and too many members of the international community have unfairly singled out Israel for condemnation and failed to investigate horrible human rights violations in other countries cannot make Israel immune from the very standards it has accepted as binding upon it.

source

Goldstone poster

Goldstone-poster-5-499x719

As the Academic Year Opens in Israel:

…838 Students Still Trying to Leave Gaza for Study Abroad
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – Once again, following the start of the academic year at many institutions of higher education around the world, some 838 Palestinian students are still waiting to leave Gaza to study abroad. The students cannot leave due to the Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip and the rigid criteria for exit via the Erez and Rafah border crossings.

According to figures provided to Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement – by the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza, 1,983 students who have been accepted into educational institutions abroad have registered for permits to exit via the Rafah crossing since the start of the year, but only 1,145 students have managed to pass through the crossing. 69 additional students have left via Erez crossing.

Overseas travel is no simple matter for Palestinian students because passage through Israel is extremely limited in accordance with a long list of criteria determined by Israel, which include the possession of a “recognized” academic scholarship and enrollment to study in a country which has a diplomatic presence in Israel. In addition, since June 2008 Israel has made the exit of students from Gaza to study abroad conditional on a physical diplomatic escort (see Gisha’s report: “Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit From Gaza”). The students also have difficulty leaving through Egypt via Rafah crossing due to the fact that it is closed most of the time. The rare openings of Rafah Crossing permit travel for only about 12% of people wishing to pass (see Gisha’s report: “Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys?”).

As a result, 838 students are still waiting in Gaza for permission to leave. An additional unknown number of students were not even eligible to register for a Rafah exit permit since they were unable to attend a visa interview in Jerusalem or the West Bank – a prerequisite for passing through the Rafah crossing. Below are three examples of students harmed by the infrequent opening of the Rafah crossing and the strict exit criteria set by Israel:

Mohammed AbuHajar, 29, was accepted into an MA program in Information Technology and Communications at the Center for Information Technologies in Athens in July 2009, and was even awarded a full scholarship by the Center. Since Israel does not consider this to be a “recognized university” or a “recognized scholarship,” and despite requests by Greek officials on his behalf, all of AbuHajar’s attempts to leave Gaza have so far led nowhere. He only just managed to register with the Palestinian Interior Ministry, but it is not known when the next opening of the Rafah crossing will take place or whether AbuHajar will be able to get through the crossing at all.

Ihab Naser, 38, who holds a graduate degree in Biochemistry, was accepted into doctoral studies in Community Nutrition at a Malaysian university in May 2009, but he has not yet managed to leave Gaza. Since Malaysia has no diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, so long as Israel continues to insist on the diplomatic escort requirement, Naser has no chance of getting out of Gaza via Israel to study abroad. Despite the fact that Naser has been on the list of students with a permit to exit via the Rafah crossing for a long time already, due to the huge crowd of hopeful travelers that converges on the crossing every time it opens, his exit has been delayed time and again.

Wesam Kuhail, 28, who holds a BA in Business Administration, was accepted into an MBA program in the USA, but has been forced this year – for the third time – to renew his application for the program. This is because Kuhail has not yet managed to get an exit permit from Gaza in order to attend a visa interview at the US Consulate in Jerusalem: “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to the consulate under these circumstances. This wait has prevented me from making important life decisions… All I am doing is waiting for my entry permit to be approved by the Israelis.”

Source: Gisha

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